March 9, 2000

Clean Air and Water are among Top Concerns for American Voters

Voters overwhelming support strict enforcement of environmental laws and favor candidates who support strong environmental standards

Washington, DC - American voters rate environmental issues, especially clean water and air, as top concerns going into this year's elections, according to a national poll released today by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Education Fund. Clean air and water rank among education, crime and drugs, healthcare, and Social Security and Medicare as top-tier concerns, rating higher than taxes. The national poll indicates that a majority (64 percent) of voters view environmental issues as very (28 percent) or somewhat important (36 percent) when deciding how to cast their ballot.

"American voters care deeply about the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink, and they overwhelmingly support candidates who share those concerns," said Deb Callahan, president of the LCV Education Fund. "Voters not only favor candidates who support stronger environmental protections and enforcement, but they are also much more likely to oppose candidates who would turn back protections for our air, water and open space."

Voters of all political parties and ideologies overwhelmingly reject the notion that a clean environment and a strong economy are mutually exclusive. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of both moderate and liberal voters, and over two-thirds (68 percent) of conservative voters believe that "we can have a clean environment and a strong economy at the same time without having to choose one over the other." Over three-quarters of voters (78 percent) say they would favor strong environmental candidates over those who push for fewer government regulations (15 percent).

Voters believe there is an appropriate role for government regulations and enforcement of environmental laws. The poll shows that voters want tougher environmental laws and stricter enforcement (77 percent). An overwhelming 92 percent of respondents agree that polluters or those who break environmental laws should pay a fine to help pay for environmental enforcement. In addition, 89 percent of respondents agree that businesses that pollute should pay higher fees for business and dumping permits to help pay for environmental law enforcement.

Candidates who are strong environmentalists are viewed as embodying some positive qualities that are particularly relevant in the current political environment. Voters perceive pro-environment candidates as sharing their values (72 percent), responsible (68 percent) and trustworthy (65 percent). The same positive traits are not attributed to candidates who support reducing government regulation on business.

"Political candidates, regardless of political party, can benefit by including environmental issues in their campaigns," said Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Research Inc. "Not only do environmental issues, especially clean air and water, appeal directly to the quality of life and health concerns of voters, but candidates who embrace these issues are viewed in a significantly more positive light by voters."

Quinlan noted that key swing voters readily associate pro-environment candidates with these positive qualities, particularly "shares your values." Independents (77 percent), young women (79 percent) and moderate to conservative Democrats (79 percent) view pro-environment candidates as sharing their values.

"The trend in politics this year is that candidates are talking less about issues and more about character and values," Callahan said. "The environment can be a key issue in that dialogue because environmental support is perceived by voters to positively reflect on the character of candidates."

Commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Education Fund, the national poll was conducted February 6 - 13 by Greenberg Quinlan Research Inc. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,750 likely voters. The results are weighted to nationally represent 1,000 likely voters. The margin of error on the poll is +/- 3 percent.

The LCV Education Fund is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public education organization dedicated to building the grassroots power of the environmental movement to involve citizens in policy decisions at all levels of government. The poll released today is part of an extensive year-long assessment of the saliency of environmental issues and how they influence voter participation. Working with state environmental groups and a variety of pollsters, the LCV Education Fund will this year conduct 22 state and 3 national polls on environmental and conservation issues and their relationship to civic participation.

A nationwide, representative sample of 1000 respondents was supplemented with the following regional oversamples: 192 respondents in the New England region, 53 respondents in the Middle Atlantic region, 44 respondents in the Southeastern region, 7 respondents in the Great Lakes region, 197 respondents in the Northwestern region, 111 respondents in the Southwestern region, and 146 respondents in the Western region. The data were weighted by region, gender, age, marital status, education, and race to ensure the sample is an accurate reflection of the population. The sample size with this weight applied is 1000 cases.

Click here to download the PDF version of the LCV Education Fund Final Analysis report!

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